“These outsiders saw the giant sit at the heart of the economy, and they saw it doing something the rest of the suckers never thought they would do: they watched.”
The quote above is from the 2015 film titled The big court. The film tells the side stories of a number of financial professionals in the mid to late 2000s who made big bucks predicting that the US housing market would crash. Most people worked on the assumption that the housing market was strong while the major players in the story did some research and found those assumptions to be wrong.
While not nearly as significant, I think of how the quote applies to how NFL teams value draft picks in trades. Virtually the entire league works on the same board which assigns a numerical value to each pick. When a trade is complete, people look to the chart to see if their GM got a good value.
However, you rarely see anyone checking whether the chart accurately reflects the true value of each choice.
This came to mind the day after the Jets chased Tyreek Hill. The Jets would have offered Kansas City the 35th, 38th and 69th picks in this year’s draft. Collectively, these picks add up to 1,315 points. (Kansas City would have sent the Jets a late third-round pick in the deal for Hill, which would have lowered the total points cost of the trade.)
Some have wondered why the Jets didn’t offer the 10th pick. This choice alone is worth 1,300.
It jumped out at me that the Jets’ pair of second-round picks and their third-round pick are roughly equal to 10 in total according to the chart. Only 15 points separate them, which equates to a late sixth-round pick on the board.
The Jets will surely be tied to more wide receivers in the trade market by the time the NFL Draft is four weeks away. This made me wonder.
If the Jets put together a package to try and land someone like DK Metcalf or AJ Brown, would giving up the 10th pick really be giving up 35, 38 and 69?
I decided to gather data on the last 25 NFL Drafts, specifically the players selected 10th, 35th, 38th and 69th overall.
I compared the total number of seasons these players were their team’s primary starters with Pro Bowls and AP First Team All Pro selections. I also looked at how many of the 25 players had at least one Pro Bowl selection in their careers. Then I did the same with the AP All Pro First Team. (That’s because an outstanding player could possibly skew the Pro Bowls and All Pros count in a way that would make the data unrepresentative like Tom Brady at pick 199.)
Here are the totals.
Of course, picks 35, 38, and 69 would be part of a package, so it makes sense to combine them.
This data presents a pretty clear picture that the two second-round picks and the third-round pick collectively make for a better package to have.
I bet you are surprised. If one were to be much more valuable, you could have bet it would be the 10th pick overall.
There are a few things to consider. Obviously, you need to allocate three spots on the roster for 35, 38, and 69 versus just one spot for 10. Is that really a big deal, though? Even if you miss one or two of those picks, they would take the 54 and 55 player spots on the roster. You probably wouldn’t cut productive players from your team.
You might wonder about salaries. The 10th overall pick will receive a 4-year contract worth $23.5 million according to Over the Cap. The three second-day picks will total approximately $25.5 million over four years. So there is not a big difference in the money.
Of course, you need to consider the strengths and weaknesses of a Draft class as well as your team’s goals. That said, in a neutral situation, it seems clear that you’ll get noticeably more production from picking the 35th, 38th, and 69th than from the 10th pick alone.
That suggests the Jets would be wise to try to treat 10 as the first pick if the two options are considered equal by the other team. The table looks wrong. The values of these packages are not equal.
It should also serve as a reminder to the fanbase to temper expectations if the Jets don’t make a trade. We tend to expect the team to add a lot of impact with two top-ten selections this year. Two picks out of the top ten should equal two stars, right?
This review tells a different story. Less than one in three players selected 10 overall over the past two and a half decades has even made a single Pro Bowl team. I feel like this is one of the reasons why perceptions about the value of choices are so flawed. Generally speaking, NFL fans consider the top ten picks to be must-see stars. In reality, you have to know what you’re doing to hit even in the early stages of the draft. The seven-in-twenty-five chance of landing a Pro Bowler is no laughing matter, but it shows a disconnect between that perception and reality. Trading from the top ten is probably cheaper than you think.
On the same note, giving up pick 10 is probably better than giving up 35, 38, and 69.